United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Bracey (“Plaintiff” or
“Bracey”) brings this action against Defendant
Lancaster Foods, LLC (“Defendant” or
“Lancaster”) alleging violations of the Family
and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C
§§ 2601 et seq., Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§
12101 et seq., and Maryland Fair Employment
Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md. Code, State Gov't
§ 20-266(a). (Am. Compl., ECF No. 17.) Currently pending
before this Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and
Compel Arbitration and for Attorneys' Fees. (ECF No. 21.)
The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no
hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss and Compel Arbitration and for Attorneys' Fees
(ECF No. 21) is GRANTED.
reviewing a motion to dismiss, this Court accepts as true the
facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. See Aziz
v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011).
Plaintiff began working for Lancaster Foods, a wholly-owned
subsidiary of Guest Services, Inc., as a Yard Jockey in 2008.
(ECF No. 17 at ¶ 1.) Prior to being hired by Lancaster,
he was required to enter into an arbitration agreement with
Guest Services (the “Agreement”). (Id.
at ¶ 71.) Specifically, the two-page Agreement states
that “[i]n return for Guest Services considering my
application for employment, and in consideration of my
employment with Guest Services should Guest Services choose
to employ me, I consent to arbitration of any Employment
Related Claim . . ..” (ECF No. 21-2) (emphasis added).
The Agreement provides that in order to request arbitration,
a party must submit a written Notice to Guest Services'
Director of Human Resources. (Id.) Further, any
request must be submitted “within one year of the date
that the act complained of occurred . . . regardless of any
longer limitations period that may be provided by any
federal, state or local statute.” (Id.) Guest
Services would then cover the cost and expenses of the
arbitrator, with other costs, expenses, and attorneys'
fees allocated as provided by the National Rules for the
Resolution of Employment Disputes of the American Arbitration
Association. (Id.) The Agreement clearly states in
capital, bold letters “THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL OR TRIAL BY
JURY IS OF VALUE. YOU MAY WISH TO CONSULT AN ATTORNEY PRIOR
TO SIGNING THIS AGREEMENT. …” (Id.)
years after beginning his employment with Lancaster, on
August 11, 2014, Bracey suffered a work related injury to his
leg. (ECF No. 17 at ¶¶ 11-12.) After undergoing
surgeries and physical therapy over a period of six months,
Bracey finally returned to work on February 15, 2015 on light
duty. (Id. at ¶ 15.) In late March, he began
physical therapy again. (Id. at ¶ 16.)
Subsequently, on May 19, 2015, he was discharged by his
physical therapists “at the Medium Physical Demand
Category limiting his ability to lift weights that were more
than 37-57 pounds.” (Id. at ¶ 18.) The
next day Bracey visited his personal physician, Dr. Greg
Osgood, M.D., who determined that he had trauma arthritis in
his arm and recommended that he continue to work on light
duty for an additional six months. (Id. at ¶
21.) On June 9, 2015, however, an independent medical
examiner evaluated Bracey and released him to “full
duty without restrictions.” (Id. at ¶
27.) Despite the independent medical examiner's
determination, Bracey continued to work light duty per Dr.
Osgood's recommendation. (Id. at ¶ 30.)
that month, in a letter dated June 18, 2015 and received by
Bracey on June 23, 2015, Lancaster's safety manager
informed Bracey that Lancaster had received the independent
medical examiner's report, and unless the company heard
back from him by June 26, 2015, he would be deemed resigned.
(Id. at ¶ 32.) On June 23, Bracey contacted the
Director of Human Resources, who told Bracey that he was to
return to work “without restrictions or risk being
resigned.” (Id. at ¶ 33.) When he clocked
in for work that day, the safety manager told him that he was
no longer being accommodated for light duty. (Id. at
¶ 35.) Bracey responded that he was physically unable to
work full duty, and his doctor had also placed him on work
restrictions. (Id. at ¶ 36.) He also asserts
that pursuant to Lancaster's grievance procedures, he
asked the safety manager for an immediate meeting with the
head of Human Resources and the Vice President to discuss his
accommodations and light duty request. (Id. at
¶ 39.) However, the meeting never occurred.
(Id. at ¶ 42.)
did not report for work the next two days. (Id. at
¶¶ 46-49.) Mid-day on June 26, 2015, he received
another letter indicating that unless he reported to work
that day on full duty, he would be deemed resigned.
(Id. at ¶ 49.) He reported to work, but again
insisted that he could not work full duty. (Id. at
¶¶ 51-52.) On June 29, 2015, he asked for another
meeting pursuant to the grievance procedures, to no avail.
(Id. at ¶ 57.) On July 7, 2015, he received
“a letter from Lancaster Food attributing the false
allegations to him that he had resigned.” (Id.
at ¶ 61.)
five months later, on or around December 12, 2015, Bracey
filed a Charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. at ¶ 67.)
Bracey also informed the EEOC that he would like to
participate in EEOC sponsored mediation with Lancaster.
(Id. at ¶ 68.) Lancaster declined.
(Id.) Subsequently, the EEOC was unable to conclude
that there was reasonable cause to believe discrimination had
occurred. Accordingly, Bracey received a Right to Sue letter
from the EEOC on February 5, 2017.(Id. at ¶ 7.)
April 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court for
Anne Arundel County, alleging interference and retaliation
under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C
§§ 2601 et seq. (Counts I, II);
discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation under
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. (Counts III-V);
disability discrimination, wrongful discharge, failure to
accommodate, and disability retaliation under the Maryland
Fair Employment Practices Act (“FEPA”), Md. Code,
State Gov't § 20-266(a) (Count VI-VIII); and breach
of the contract of good faith and fair dealing (Count IX). On
June 30, 2017, Defendant removed the action to this Court
based on federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
11, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss and Compel
Arbitration on the ground that Plaintiff Bracey had signed
the Arbitration Agreement. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff then moved
to stay the proceedings pending receiving his files from the
EEOC, which this Court granted. (ECF Nos. 11, 13.) After
receiving the file, on November 17, 2017, Plaintiff filed an
Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 17.) On December 4, 2017,
Defendant filed the instant Motion to Dismiss and Compel
Arbitration. (ECF No. 21.)
Lancaster Foods has filed the pending Motion to Compel
Arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act
(“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq.
The standard of review on a Motion to Compel Arbitration
pursuant to the FAA is “‘akin to the burden on
summary judgment.'” Galloway v. Santander
Consumer USA, Inc., 819 F.3d 79, 85 (4th Cir. 2016)
(quoting Chorley Enterprises, Inc. v. Dickey's
Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., 807 F.3d 553, 564 (4th Cir.
2015)). Although the Fourth Circuit has so characterized the
standard of review, the pending motion will not be converted
to or treated as a motion for summary judgment. On the
contrary, the remedies available to a defendant moving to
compel arbitration are limited to a stay or dismissal of the
action. See Choice Hotels Int'l, Inc. v. BSR
Tropicana Resort, Inc., 252 F.3d 707, 709-10 (4th Cir.
2001) (“[T]he FAA requires a district court, upon
motion by any party, to stay judicial proceedings involving
issues covered by written arbitration agreements [citing 9
U.S.C. § 3] . . . . Notwithstanding the terms of §
3, however, dismissal is a proper remedy when all of the
issues presented in a lawsuit are arbitrable. [citing
Alford v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 975 F.2d 1161,
1164 (5th Cir. 1992)].”) Therefore, motions to compel
arbitration “shall [be] grant[ed] … if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Rose v. New Day
Financial, LLC, 816 F.Supp.2d 245, 251-52 (D. Md. 2011).
seeking to apply the FAA must demonstrate four elements:
“‘(1) the existence of a dispute between the
parties, (2) a written agreement that includes an arbitration
provision which purports to cover the dispute, (3) the
relationship of the transaction, which is evidenced by the
agreement, to interstate or foreign commerce, and (4) the
failure, neglect or refusal of the defendant to arbitrate the
dispute.'” Galloway, 819 F.3d at 84
(quoting Rota- McLarty v. Santander Consumer USA,
Inc., 700 F.3d 690, 696 n. 6 (4th Cir. 2012)).
Therefore, “although arbitration has a favored place,
there still must be an underlying agreement between the
parties to arbitrate.'” Adkins v. Labor Ready,
Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 501 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Arrants v. Buck, 130 F.3d 636, 640 (4th Cir. 1997)).
The Supreme Court has directed courts to “apply
ordinary state-law principles that govern the formation of
contracts” and “federal substantive law of
arbitratbility.” Hill v. Peoplesoft USA, Inc.,